Mesa Marin Will Close

Mesa Marin Raceway, a fixture in NASCAR short-track racing in Bakersfield since 1977, will close at the end of the season, it was announced Thursday by General Manager Larry Collins, son of track founder Marion Collins.

The final weekly race on the high-banked, half-mile asphalt oval, known as the "fastest half-mile in the West," will be Oct. 15.

Rumors had circulated for several years that the track might be forced to close because of the housing developments that have been encroaching on the area. The Collins family sold 40 of the 56 acres it owns for housing.

The track, 10 miles northeast of Bakersfield on Highway 184, is the second Southern California short track to close this year. Cajon Speedway in El Cajon was shuttered before the 2005 season was to start.

The closure will leave Bakersfield Speedway, a third-mile clay oval in Oildale, as the only track in the area.

NASCAR's Craftsman truck series was developed at Mesa Marin when a prototype was built by four off-road racers -- Jimmy Smith, Dick Landfield, Jim Venable and Frank Vessels, and demonstrated by PJ Jones in 1994.

"Without the support of Marion Collins and Mesa Marin, we probably would never have had a Craftsman truck series," said Owen Kearns, NASCAR series manager and a former Mesa Marin announcer. "It all started right there in Bakersfield."

Kevin Harvick, one of NASCAR's leading Nextel Cup drivers, also owes much of his success to racing at Mesa Marin. On June 23, Harvick will return to his hometown track and run in a late model race for the final time.

"A roll call of drivers who raced at Mesa Marin would be like a 'Who's Who' of West Coast stock car racers," Kearns said. "It was the first modern half-mile track built in the West and in its time it was the Mecca for any racer coming to California."

Races will continue on Saturday nights until the closing.

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